When Major League Soccer began play in 1996, what would be the destiny of the league was as distant as thinking about when the U.S. would win a World Cup. Survival, interest, and maintaining that interest was really all MLS could hope for in its early years. As the years progressed and the league’s losses became public, financial stability was key for the young league’s survival, and to obtain that, teams would need stadiums.
When Don Garber became commissioner of MLS in 1999 he found a league that was losing money and fan interest fast. Attendance and television viewership had fallen systematically from 1996 to 1999, one way to stop the bleeding was to stop the overspending and begin a plan of slow and sustained growth. Garber stressed that the only way the league could become financially viable was to try to move as many teams into their own Soccer Specific Stadiums as soon as possible.
In 1999, before Garber was hired, only the Columbus Crew had a stadium of its own and was really was one of the few teams that were playing to healthy crowds week in and week out. A full stadium looked very refreshing and impressive on television, rather than seeing most teams play in front of a two-thirds empty NFL stadium. Garber was able to use that example as the center of his plan to save MLS from folding. Over the next few years, the Los Angeles Galaxy and F.C. Dallas would build stadiums of their own and the Soccer Specific Stadium revolution would begin.
Fast forward to 2020 and 18 of the 26 MLS teams play in Soccer Specific Stadiums, the remaining 8 play in NFL or MLB stadiums as temporary homes as they look to build stadiums of their own. MLS has come a long way since 1996 and today no team can even think about entering the league without a Stadium plan. Below are all the MLS stadiums ranked by capacity!
26. Inter Miami CF Stadium - 18,000 capacity
Inter Miami CF Stadium is the temporary home of MLS’s new Miami franchise. With a capacity of 18,000, the stadium is located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and is built on the site of the old Lockhart Stadium. While Inter Miami will only play there until the completion of Miami Freedom Park, their current home has been adjusted to be the team’s primary headquarters and youth academy facilities.
In a way, the stadium serves as closure for MLS, while completely rebuilt over the old Lockhart Stadium, Lockhart was the home of MLS’s first attempt at a Miami team, the Miami Fusion. When that team folded in 2003 it would take 18 years and a lot of hurdles to get an MLS team back to Miami.
25. Earthquakes Stadium - 18,000 capacity
The home of the San Jose Earthquakes, Earthquakes Stadium is a cozy state of the art soccer stadium. The grounds feature a canopy roof and it is a stadium with one of the steepest seating in MLS, giving the fans a better view of the action on the field. Many journalists have stated it has the best WIFI in the whole league, so you can enjoy the game and get some work done at the same time.
Earthquakes Stadium has the largest outdoor bar in North America, while the seats have a three-shade pattern of blue, the suites and club seats are located at ground level. Earthquakes stadium is the perfect place to kick back and enjoy a game.
24. Dick's Sporting Goods Park - 18,061 capacity
Dick's Sporting Goods Park is the home to the Colorado Rapids. Built in 2007, the stadium has 18,061 seats, but for special soccer games, it can be upgraded to seat a little bit over 19,500, and for concerts, it can hold 27,000 spectators. Dick's Sporting Goods Park is approximately 5,200 feet above sea level, making the stadium the highest elevation of any stadium in MLS.
Dick's Sporting Goods Park has the distinction of being host to the coldest game in MLS history, a 3-3 tie between the Rapids and Portland Timbers played at - 18°F and a snowstorm. Speaking of snow it was also host to the World Cup Qualifier between the U.S. and Costa Rica in 2013 also played in a snowstorm, the famous snow game which the U.S. won on a Clint Dempsey goal.
23. Children's Mercy Park - 18,467 capacity
Children's Mercy Park is home to the feel-good story of Sporting Kansas City. Sporting KC was one of MLS’s worst franchises off the field when they were the Wizards. Playing in a 90% empty Arrowhead Stadium the team looked more like a team that was going to be moved or folded than what it is today. When the club rebranded part of the strategy to bring life to the team was a Soccer Specific Stadium.
The Stadium is considered one of the cathedrals of soccer in the United States, Sporting KC has smashed attendance records and the supporter’s section provides one of the best atmospheres in the league. Children's Mercy Park was the Winner of the 2012 "Venue of the Year Award" and "Community Award" via The Stadium Business Awards. It was also a finalist for "Sports Facility of the Year", and one of eight finalists for "New Venue Award" in 2012.
22. Subaru Park - 18,500 capacity
Subaru Park is home to the Philadelphia Union and it was built in preparation for the 2010 season. The stadium is located on the Chester waterfront along the Delaware River and was designed to be a part of economic development for the waterfront.
The Sons of Ben, the club’s supporters group has an entrance that leads to a 2,000-seat section at the southeast end of the stadium reserved specifically for the group. Cantilevered roofs run above the Main and Bridge Stands and were designed to protect fans from the elements without obstructing the view of the Commodore Barry Bridge and the Delaware River from their seats.
21. Allianz Field - 19,400 capacity
Allianz Field is the newly constructed home of Minnesota United, the Loons home venue is one of the loudest in the league. The stadium opened in 2019 and has a ring-shaped design with the intention of expanding the stadium to 24,000 in the future. It has a safe standing terrace for around 3,000 supporters, named the “Wonderwall”.
The stadium is designed to have an "intimate atmosphere", the field is only 16 inches above the first row. Outside the stadium, there are color-changing LED lights that change colors in the same style as the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany.
20. Saputo Stadium - 19,619 capacity
Saputo Stadium is where the Montreal Impact calls home, opened in 2008, the stadium is built on the former practice track and field site of the 1976 Summer Olympics. It is the second-largest Soccer Specific Stadium behind BMO Field.
The Stadium was renovated in preparation for the team’s expansion into Major League Soccer, and the Quebec government put $23 million for the renovation and expansion of the stadium. The total cost came out to about $40 million.
19. Mapfre Stadium - 19,968 capacity
Mapfre Stadium is the holy grail of Soccer Specific Stadiums, Lamar Hunt put up the money and the incentive to give the Columbus Crew a home of their own, and also stating to the world the league was here to stay. Mapfre Stadium is not the nicest stadium, when you compare it to the other stadiums built afterward it sometimes looks like a college stadium rather than a professional sports team stadium. But the history and the meaning is there, without the success of Crew Stadium there would very possibly be no MLS today.
While the Crew will move to downtown and a much more modern stadium in the coming years Mapfre Stadium will always hold a special place in soccer fan’s hearts, it was the first of its kind and the home of 2-0 for the U.S. Men’s National Team.
18. Audi Field - 20,000 capacity
It took a long time to get there, but Audi Field is home to D.C. United, one of MLS’s winningest teams. Built in 2018 in the Buzzard Point district of Washington, DC it is one of the stadiums with the closest seats to field distance in the league.
D.C. United was in danger of leaving the D.C area because of the difficulty to find a proper site for their stadium, thankfully, for the tradition of the team and the league Audi Field was built tailor-made for the team and its incredible history.
17. Rio Tinto Stadium - 20,213 capacity
Rio Tinto Stadium is home to Real Salt Lake and was built for the 2008 season. The project had a cost of $110 million and the characteristics of the stadium are that of a waving fiberglass roof on both sides of the stadium.
The Stadium has played host to various U.S. Men’s National team games, international friendlies, and concerts. Major artists like Paul McCartney, The Eagles, KISS, and Neil Diamond have all played there.
16. Toyota Stadium - 20,500 capacity
Toyota Stadium is one of the finest facilities in the United States, home to F.C. Dallas and the National Soccer Hall of Fame, it is a nice destination for all soccer fans. The complex around the stadium has 17 regulation size fields with both grass and artificial turf.
The Hall of Fame is located at the stadium’s south end and was completed in 2018. The Hall of Fame houses some of the best memories and memorabilia of Soccer in the United States, as well as being host to the yearly induction ceremony.
15. Banc of California Stadium - 22,000 capacity
The home of LAFC, Banc of California Stadium was built in preparations for the 2018 season. The stadium's seating is at 34 degrees, the closest seats are 12 feet from the field and all seats are within 135 feet of the field.
The North End is where the “3252” supporters group is at, the name comes from the number of seats allocated to the safe standing section. It was built on an incline of 34 degrees and features angled handrails that are designed to resemble those used on roller coasters.
14. BBVA Stadium - 22,039 capacity
The home of the Houston Dynamo, BBVA Stadium has 22,039 seats, 34 private suites, and 1,100 club seats. There is a Premium club, supporters stand, and a food court. The stadium was designed to be multipurpose and can accommodate MLS and FIFA standards as well as American Football, Lacrosse, Rugby, and concerts.
The stadium features a faceted of expanding metal mesh with orange polycarbonate. BBVA Stadium has received an award for innovative construction and sustainable design. It’s one of the best stadiums in all of MLS.
13. Red Bull Arena - 25,000 capacity
Red Bull Arena is home to, you guessed it, the New York Red Bulls, built in 2010 after a long journey to build a stadium for the MetroStars and later Red Bulls, Red Bull Arena is one of the best stadiums for soccer in the country.
The seats of the stadium are of the tip-up variety without armrests (except for a few sections near the player benches which feature small armrests and cup holders) similar to those of European soccer stadiums. There are 30 luxury suites and 1,000 premium seats as well as the South Ward, which make up the sections of the supporters club.
12. Providence Park - 25,218 capacity
Providence Park is home to the Portland Timbers and without question is the stadium to be in all of MLS. It’s hard to find a more authentic soccer atmosphere than the one in Providence Park. The Stadium itself has been around since 1928 and was used over the years as a minor league baseball facility until the arrival of the Timbers to MLS.
The Stadium has an old school structure, but after various renovations also has accommodations for modern sports. The Portland Timbers have such high ticket demand that the team recently added extra seating to accommodate that demand. The Timbers Army section is arguably the best place to watch a soccer game in all of the United States.
11. Exploria Stadium - 25,500 capacity
Orlando City calls Exploria Stadium home and is home to “The Wall” the standing room only supporters section. At 25,500 it is the second-largest stadium built for Soccer in the United States. Exploria Stadium features a low and tight seating bowl designed to keep noise in to provide a loud atmosphere.
The Stadium also includes 49 rainbow-colored seats in section 12 as a memorial to the victims of the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting. Exploria Stadium won the 2018 Downtown Orlando Partnership Golden Brick Award - Award of Excellence.
10. Dignity Health Sports Park - 27,000 capacity
The Los Angeles Galaxy’s home Dignity Health Sports Park was opened for the 2003 season and has a tennis stadium right next to it. A complex designed to be a commitment to athletics and training it features tennis courts, soccer training fields, and a three-mile jogging trail.
In 2017 when the Chargers used the stadium there were upgrades done by adding 1,000 new seats, bleachers in the second deck, new upper-level bleachers, and the luxury suites were given a facelift.
9. BMO Field - 30,000 capacity
BMO Field is home to Toronto FC and opened in 2007 when Toronto FC began play in MLS. When it opened it was at 25,000 capacity and as the popularity of the club grew the stadium was upgraded to hold 30,000.
BMO Field is also home to the Canadian National Team along with Canadian League Football. The NHL even held a game there it was a Toronto Maple Leafs game that drew 40,000 fans.
8. Nippert Stadium - 40,000 capacity
Nippert Stadium is the temporary home of FC Cincinnati, as the club looks to have a stadium of their own shortly. An NCAA stadium for the University of Cincinnati until the arrival of the MLS team was mostly used for College Football.
Built in 1915 it has gone through a few facelifts and additions over the years, when FC Cincinnati plays in the stadium it has a reduced capacity of 32,000.
7. Yankee Stadium - 47,309 capacity
Soccer in a Baseball stadium, it has happened before, the old New York Cosmos played in the old Yankee stadium. The new Yankee Stadium is almost a carbon copy of the old structure but with many advancements. The current stadium features 4,300 club seats and 68 luxury suites, a sushi bar, and Monument Park, the Yankees retired numbers museum.
Not very ideal for the game of Soccer, fans have stated it is sometimes difficult to watch the game from certain distances, but due to the complexities of stadium building in New York, NYCFC will be calling Yankee Stadium home for the near future.
6. BC Place - 54,500 capacity
BC Place is home to the Vancouver Whitecaps and BC Lions of the Canadian Football League. Opened in 1983 the stadium has been through several renovations and today is the home of the world’s largest cable-supported retractable roof.
When the Whitecaps play the roof is enclosed to accommodate 22,000 fans and makes the viewing experience of the game extremely pleasant.
5. Soldier Field - 61,500 capacity
Soldier Field is the home of the Chicago Fire and it opened in 1924, the name serves as a memorial to U.S. soldiers who had died in combat. Its formal dedication as Soldier Field was on November 27, 1926, during the 29th annual playing of the Army-Navy Game.
With a Neoclassical style, Doric columns rise above the East and West entrances, the stadium is once again the home of the MLS team following their rebrand and move back to the city.
4. Gillette Stadium - 65,878 capacity
Gillette Stadium is the home of the New England Revolution but in reality, it’s the home of the New England Patriots. It’s an NFL stadium and not really soccer friendly.
Whether it’s the Football lines on game day or how small a 15,000 crowd looks in the big stadium for the Revolution it’s not a proper stadium situation.
3. CenturyLink Field - 69,000 capacity
CenturyLink Field is home to the Seattle Sounders and while the Sounders have sold-out the stadium on various occasions it has a reduced capacity of 37,000 for MLS games.
A modern stadium it was built with soccer in mind and while it’s an NFL stadium the crowds for Sounders games do not get lost.
2. Nissan Stadium - 69,143 capacity
Nissan Stadium is home to MLS new expansion team Nashville SC opened in 1999 it is an NFL stadium that had soccer in mind as before Nashville SC it hosted various U.S. Women’s National Team games.
Rock bands like the Rolling Stones and Gun’s N Roses have played there and while Nashville SC drew 59,000 for their first home game the team will move into their own stadium in the coming years.
1. Mercedes-Benz Stadium - 71,000 Capacity
The state of the art Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened in 2017, it is one of the most technologically advanced stadiums in the world. The stadium has a retractable roof, LED boards, and can house 100 players in oversized locker rooms.
Atlanta United play to an average of 42,000 fans per game and have sold-out the stadium on many occasions, so it’s the perfect home for the MLS team with the best attendance.